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Local 3D artist turns hobby into full-time career

By Admin User on December 8, 2021

The popularity of VR is on the rise, and it has been for years. Right now, headsets are more affordable and accessible than ever, and popular social hubs like VRChat are one of the last good places to hang out. It’s so popular, it spawned it’s own market and economy based around content made by it’s own players. By far, the most sought after commodity is custom player avatars.

A local artist, known by his alias “Skipsy,” has been creating digital artwork for over 12 years. What started out as a simple hobby, he now runs a business off of creating and selling 3D models that players can wear online. I spoke with him to find out what it’s like making a living off his personal projects.

What got you started in creating 3D character models?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I guess VRChat just opened that market up to me to try something new, and I saw the potential from other creators. So I was like “Well, I better try it myself, because it’s something I’ve wanted to do.” So I did. And four years later, I’m here!

What was it like trying to teach yourself how to 3D model from scratch?

It was tough! My main problems were just learning the technical aspects of the software I’m using.

Because I’ve already been a digital artist for twelve years, I had the character designing, anatomy and everything down already. It’s helped me in that I just have a fundamental understanding of anatomy, and so that helped with just proportionally creating all of my characters in 3D space instead of just on a piece of paper or on a screen. I just needed to learn how the software works and all the different steps about it. There’s a lot!

Work-In-Progress of the 3D modelling process (Courtesy of Skipsy)

Was creating 3D models something you always wanted to do as a career?

It was a hobby at first, but once I started seeing how lucrative it was for other creators, I was like “Well, I’ll try one and see how that goes.” It ended up being pretty successful, so I just decided to keep going. It’s gonna be sort of a semi-permanent income now, I think! I’m gonna go full-time with it for as long as I can handle doing that, and as long as it is the current trend. I don’t see it being like, permanent long-term, but definitely an indefinite amount of time.

How do people respond when they find out that this is your job?

Well, when it comes to people like family and stuff, they’re quite surprised and thrilled that I can make a job out of doing something completely online, and digital from home, and actually support myself with it. So it’s surprising to them, but they’re very supportive about it. When it comes to random people I meet here [in VRChat], it’s not surprising to them but it’s exciting for them to meet a creator. It’s like “Wow, you can actually make a living of of the game you’re playing right now!”

What are some pros and cons about having this as your main career?

There’s quite a lot of pros and cons. But the big ones for me… all the positives are I get to do this job from home, I get to hang out with all of my friends while I’m working. It’s something that I wanna do, and it’s something that I enjoy doing because it’s characters and creatures that I imagine in my head. So, making something that I imagine is a good pro!

But the cons about this are I can start to burn out a little bit, because I’m doing what I love as a job and it starts to become a bit less of what I love and more of just a job. Another is the income isn’t steady, it can vary based on how many sales I’m making. So, I’m not making like, regular scheduled hours with a pay each week.

I’d say another con is trying to avoid burnout, I take long breaks between each project, so I’m making like, a sort of mid-level passive income the whole time, but I’m not doing any work in that whole time and that’s not actively generating any higher revenue or anything.

Would you consider taking a second job to support yourself whenever you decide to take breaks?

I’ve thought about that, and I have the resume and the credentials to back me up for at least a basic technical job or a safety job of some kind in the background, if I really need to take a break for longer. I’ve thought about actually applying at Memory Express if I need to, it’s just a five minute drive from where I live. Some of my fans actually work there! It’s kind of weird, I get recognized whenever I go in.

What advice would you give to people who want to learn how to create character models?

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to making models, because you need a fundamental understanding of anatomy, so you need to learn how to make artwork to begin with. I don’t think you can really make 3D models without at least having some understanding of how things work two-dimensionally as well. And you need to learn the fundamentals of the modelling software, the technical aspects of making a model work.

And don’t get discouraged if you can’t come up with something in the first couple of months that you’ve been wanting to get into this. Because I’ve been at this for four years, and three and a half years later, I released my first model. So don’t give up!

If you’d like to support Skipsy and his work, you can contribute to his Patreon, where you can see updates for upcoming models and artwork.



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